RSA criticised for cracking down on unaccompanied learner drivers

Mary Ryan

The ‘Clancy Amendment’ has strengthened penalties for car owners who allow learners to drive their vehicles unaccompanied.

TheRSA is facing backlash against its new campaign cracking down on unaccompanied learner drivers.

As part of new legislation passed in December, the Road Safety Authority created an advertisement where Cork man Noel Clancy, revisits the scene where his wife and daughter died as a result of a collision with an unaccompanied learner driver in 2015.

The driver in question was given a three year suspended sentence.

The ad, which was run on television and in cinemas, received 34 complaints from members of the public, with many calling it “cruel” and “completely out of order”.

“She didn’t set out to ruin their life or her own,” said one complainant.

The Road Traffic Amendment Act 2018, also known as the ‘Clancy Amendment’ strengthened penalties for car owners who allow learners to drive their vehicles unaccompanied.

The RSA claims similar legislation introduced in Northern Ireland has been very effective at reducing the number of learner drivers involved in road collisions.

According to statistics released by the RSA last year an average of 12 learner drivers are involved in fatal collisions every year- with 80 per cent of them being unaccompanied.

CEO of the RSA Moyagh Murdock said Ireland had a “culture of turning a blind eye on unaccompanied drivers”.

“They are a high risk road user, they are inexperienced, they don’t have the lessons to demonstrate that they have learned how to drive appropriately,” she said.

However, many have criticized the legislation for being impractical for drivers living in rural areas.

Speaking to Séan O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio 1, Kerry TD Michael Healy Rae said the new legislation was “criminalising young people”.

“What our legislators did when they brought in this amendment, they criminalised the young people in rural areas particularly” he said.

“It’s not a culture, it’s a thing called bare, basic necessity.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar acknowledged in January that some places in rural Ireland have waiting lists of up to 20 weeks for the driving test, calling it “unacceptable”.

“It is something we are working on,” he told the Dáil.

“We want to get that waiting time down to a reasonable level as soon as we can”.

The first two months of 2019 have already seen a number of fatal road incidents involving young drivers, including the deaths of four men in their 20’s in Gweedore in late January, and the recent death of a 16 year old driver in Carlow.

Mary Ryan

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